Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Treasure In My Heart


 

Heart Leaf in Fancy Frame with Text

Heart Leaf in The Park in Decorative Frame

 

Welcome to the first installment of Theologically Thursday. The word of God and the doctrines of serving Him are good for every day of the week, so you may see theologies on other days as well. However, my goal will be to always bring something specifically related to Scripture and Bible study on my Thursday blog posts.

For a simple post about matters of the heart, I started with a search for Scriptures that pointed to the heart, and that brought me to the one in the image above from Matthew 6:21 in the King James’ Version.

Next, I read over Psalm 37:4 where the words from the New King James’ Version say, Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. And then I read in Proverbs 4:23, in the Complete Jewish Bible, the following: Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences.

There are so many Scriptures on the heart that I can see a variety of topics drawing me in for deeper study. For today, however, I will focus on the idea that God is in the business of granting our desires in the same way good parents want to grant the desires their children have. A good parent doesn’t say “yes” to everything–no matter how much the child whines and begs. Instead, a good parent teaches a child why some things are better to desire than others. For example, a good father doesn’t help his son find drugs that will harm him no matter how much the son thinks he wants them to “be cool” to his friends. And, a good mother will teach her daughter to desire a mate that will treat her as a person of value rather than helping her get the attention of the most popular guy in school just because that what she says she wants at the time.

In His holy word, our Abba Father teaches us that if we will focus on Him, seeking Him first above all else, He will grant us our desires. I believe that if our treasures are truly wrapped up in Him, our desires will be for things He desires to fulfill. The Scripture in Psalm 37 may actually mean that God will literally place the correct desires in our hearts.

To make sure our loving Father can freely bless us with whatever we desire, all we need to do is protect our hearts from distractions that seek to turn our thoughts away from God and His love. If we trust in His sovereignty, we will have desires, but we will not covet anything not already in our lives because we will trust that He is our provider of right desires and of fulfilling those right desires.

May we all seek to hide an abundance of treasure from God’s word in our hearts that we will not sin against Him even in our desires, and may He fulfill every right desire of our hearts.

August 4, 2016 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, Theologically Thursday | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heaven on Earth


We all want a perfect life. We don’t want troubles and trials, sickness and loss, or any of that stuff that brings us grief and heartache. If we could have it, we would gladly take Heaven on Earth. This desire is likely as old as creation’s move from a perfect garden to a world overrun by thorns and thistles. I believe we have this desire to keep our hope alive for a future eternity, and the story of The Savior’s birth that we celebrate during the Christmas season renews it.

Another of my favorite Christmas songs is Oh Holy Night. Since the first time I heard it, I cried at the imaginings of a world filled with darkness and having no hope; not hearing from The Lord through prophets or otherwise for around 400 years.

The first verse tells us the condition of the world on that holy night…

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

That third line, Long lay the world in sin and error pining, says so much. Imagine being in a world where even the church is infiltrated by the government. Our world….if we give in to mayors who demand copies of sermons and laws that demand we live up to government expectations instead of biblical ones. We wait now for a promised Messiah to deliver us from the certain end we are facing if things continue as they are. Servants of God then also waited for deliverance according to promises they had read in the books of the prophets.

The last line, Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth, gives us that first glimmer of hope for the deliverance the Messiah would bring. The end of the first verse continues that hope and can be sung with a more lively beat.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Can you hear it? The beat that would go behind that thrill of hope? That lively beat then leads to the acknowledgment of such powerful mercy and grace that it can bring us to our knees in praise. The song’s author must have felt this as he penned these words…

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born.

The rest of the lyrics from the video are on the YouTube page, and there are even more verses and versions in the history of both the song and the poem. Visit Wikipedia to learn more. Another beautiful story behind the song is available at Beliefnet.

He brought life into a dark world, and He brought hope into a world of hopeless emptiness. His word tells us that He came to break the chains of bondage and set the captive free. Even though we have wars and troubles in this life, we have a hope for our future eternity if we continue to run our race with patience and perseverance. All of this is because of that one Holy night. I’ll close with a final verse and chorus.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O – Ho-ly – Night.

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Christmas Season, Current Events, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Close Enough to Perfect


Not Always Perfect by Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Not Always Perfect by Former Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I remember an old Hemphill’s song that was mostly sung for children but can easily apply to any one of us doing our best to live for God while we dwell here on earth. It included the chorus lyrics…

He’s still workin’ on me,
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me.

I’m not perfect by any means, but I am thankful that line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, God is still building and making me closer and closer to His perfect image. There will come a day when I (and all of God’s people) will be like Him, when we see Him as He is, but until then, we can be thankful that He knows our forms, and that He gives us a mercy that is new every morning.

In today’s reading from Numbers 8:15 through Numbers 8;26 (the end of the chapter) we see a people that are also not yet perfect, and we see a God who is perfect. We also see a people who are not holy enough to approach a perfect and holy God without dying in His presence, but because God wants His people in His presence, He creates a proxy of people that can come before Him on their behalf.

The Levites are once again cleansed and presented before God as an offering, and they work in and around the tabernacle to keep the rest of the community of Israel from coming too close to God’s perfection. Because the Levites are accepted by God in the stead of all the firstborn of people and animals that belong to Him, they are an acceptable offering so that He will not cause any plagues to come upon the people of Israel.

The community of Israel obeys the orders of Yahveh that are given to Moses concerning the Levites. They cleanse them and present them as an offering, and God accepts them. Then the Levites do their service as ordered by God. The Levites told to serve are all those between twenty-five and fifty years of age. The Levites older than fifty are told to assist in the tabernacle services, but they are not to do any actual work in the tabernacle.

I’m grateful that God established the Levitical priesthood to make sure that He could always have a people to whom He could draw near, but I’m even more grateful now that Yeshua has become my permanent high priest, so that I can always draw near to My Creator. I need to walk in God’s presence to make it through the troubles and trials of this world, so having a proxy tribe to step in for me is not close enough to “Perfect” (God’s perfect presence) for me.  Because of Christ, I do not have to fear getting too close to the tabernacle in an unholy state that would bring me plagues because His cleansing blood perfects me and allows me to come boldly before God’s throne of grace. I will be perfected in His presence one day, but until then, being able to walk in His presence each moment of every day of my life is close enough to perfect for me.

Now, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song mentioned above, He’s Still Workin’ On Me…

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow


Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution

Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I remember sprouting a lima bean in a wet paper towel when I was in one of my lower elementary grades. I also remember that I found it fascinating. I think most people who take the time to see how God makes things grow are in awe of His handiwork. I am especially in awe at how, just as His Word tells us in John 12:24, it takes the death of the seed to make the plant grow and bring forth fruit. Sometimes, we only look at things at the point of death or hopelessness, and we forget that even out of that, God can bring new life.

Today’s reading from Leviticus 27:16 through Leviticus 27:21 doesn’t talk about anything growing, but it does talk about the fields where the growing is done. It’s basically about people who want to consecrate a field to The Lord. God informs Moses that the priests are to value the field according to its production using a standard measure of barley. Later, if the person wants the field back, he can redeem it for the value plus another one-fifth of the value, unless someone else purchased it. If it has been sold, then on Jubilee when the new owner vacates it, the land will become a permanent possession of the priesthood, and it will be holy to The Lord.

So, a field consecrated to The Lord will either be redeemed for a greater value than when it was consecrated, or it will become perpetually holy. Because God takes possession of it, He brings new life from old. If that can happen with a field, what then can happen with a soul? How many times have we prayed over a person and dedicated them to the work of God from their youth. And then they grow up and make bad decisions that go against everything we hoped and dreamed they would do for The Lord. But if we let go and trust them into God’s hands, He can add value to them or draw them to Himself as His permanent possession.

I write this at the end of a long day with a lack of sleep, but I am happy for the day because the works done in its hours have been necessary due to the work God has done in our lives. A few weeks ago, you may recall my writing about the nephew who was in a coma due to a drug overdose. If not, you can read the post “When Brothers Weep” for more information. At that point, and based on all the tests, we prayed for a miracle but were fairly certain that we had a long road ahead even if he ever woke up. Our tasks today were part of that road–which it turns out will not be as long as anticipated.

Beyond the test results and expectations, our nephew Joshua is out of both the hospital and the in-patient rehab facility, walking with a walker, thinking and remembering with almost perfect cognition, and in the process of amazing his out-patient rehabilitation workers. His biggest deficit is neuropathic pain in one foot that keeps reminding him that he just took his body through something from which it should not have recovered. And yet it has. And we are praising God for the opportunity to encourage him to use his second chance to become what God created him to be and to share his testimony with others.

My husband and I took Joshua and his three brothers to church when they were very young, and we prayed over them more than once. We had dreams of their dedication and service to God. We didn’t get to keep them in our custody very long, but we loved them as if they were our own, and it has caused us great pain to see these “fields” misused and under attack of the enemy because their mother makes herself more available to the enemy than to God. But today gives me hope of change and hope that those prayers from so long ago will be answered. Those prayers came before all the attacks of the enemy that have sought to bring these boys down, and maybe it’s those prayers that have stopped the enemy from being able to fully take their lives. Maybe these boys that we dedicated to God will each find their way to Him, increased in value and perpetually holy, before their ends come and/or before the end of life on this earth. I am going back to that prayer and that dedication and asking God to make it so. You, my friends and readers, are welcome to join me. Thank you.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Little Light of Mine


This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, and I won’t hide it under a bushel. My life on earth was created for a purpose, and since I now walk with God, I believe that purpose is to declare the Light of Christ to those who wander in darkness.

Light is an important aspect of life. They say that just a short time in total darkness can drive a person insane. What does that say for people who walk without God? In John 8:12 we read…Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” So, without His light, we have no life. In the beginning, God spoke light. Throughout biblical history, light plays a huge role in showing God’s being, and darkness is a curse. In eternity, we’re even told we will have no need for light because The Lamb will be the light.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 24:1 through Leviticus 24:23 (the end of the chapter), we read about the importance of the light in the temple. The people were to bring the oil that kept the light burning, and the pure oil was to come from crushed olives. The priest would actually light the candlestick which sat just outside the curtain of the testimony.

Yeshua told His disciples in Matthew 5:14-15 that they were light for the world, and that a city set on a hill could not be hidden. He also told them that men do not kindle light and then put a bowl over it. If we have been saved by the Blood of The Lamb, we are that light of testimony now. Our testimony comes when we crush the ways of the flesh, and let our High Priest light Himself within us. To keep that testimony shining for the world, we do not hide it by going back to the works of the flesh.

As the reading continues. we learn of the 12 loaves of bread that are to be baked with fine flour and set on the holy table in the temple. The bread is to be set in two rows of six, and each row is marked with incense. I know that God never does anything without a purpose, so I’m certain there’s some meaning here, but I have not learned it yet. I can only think of the 12 loaves representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, and the 12 gates of Heaven.

The next thing we read is actually pretty disturbing. A young man who is half Jewish and half Egyptian. (His mother is the Jew and this makes me think that this Scripture may be why you prove your Jewish heritage through your mother to this day.) The man gets in a fight with a neighbor, and during the fight, he curses the name of Yahveh. All who hear it take the young man to Moses for judgment. The judgment God sends down is that all who heard the curse are to lay hands on the man and stone him to death.

I know I get very uncomfortable when I hear people curse God, even when they don’t mean to be doing it. Even before I was saved, when I didn’t watch my mouth very well, I was never okay with using the words “God” or “Jesus” in foul language. And that’s just a casual language type of curse where people are not intentionally cursing God Himself, but are just slinging words around without thinking. It’s worse when I hear people say things about Him that I know are not true, or in any way disrespect Him. I would rather a person just say they don’t believe in Him, or not want to mention Him at all, than to put Him in a place of dishonor.

God is all about life and respect. The remainder of the portion talks of the value of life for both man and animal. It tells men what they should do if a man kills another man, or if a man kills an animal. But that was before the blood of Christ. Even though we do not take a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, or an eye for an eye anymore, God has no less respect for the value of life. I believe He still requires some type of restitution from those who would take a life and treat it as if it has no value, and I believe that applies to both the life of the flesh and the life of the soul. If there is no other reason to let God’s light shine before men, there is reason when we think of the value of a living soul made in God’s image. Even if your whole life is on this earth just to shine a light for one soul, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sukkot: The Real Manger Scene?


Mary & Steve in the Sukkah with the Lulav 10-09-2012

Mary & Steve holding the Lulav (4 Kinds of Branches) in Our Sukkah from 2012
To see the outsides and insides of some amazing sukkah designs, click on the image to go to a Flickr image search of the word, Sukkah. There are even some from the big building contest called “Sukkah City” which I think is in New York.

What if everything you’ve ever believed about Christmas was off by about 2-3 months? What if you found out that Yeshua’s birth was the fulfillment of one of The Lord’s feasts? And what if the fulfilling of that feast turned the holiday into a holy day, and brought all the joy of its celebration to you in abundance?

Today’s reading from Leviticus 23:33 through Leviticus 23:44 (the end of the chapter) gives us the information about the feast of Sukkot which means “booths,” and learning of this feast made the birth of Our Messiah more special to me than ever. I wrote a detailed article about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/notes/crystal-a-murray/sukkot-why-would-a-christian-celebrate-a-jewish-feast/10150361954688703 and I covered a little bit about it on my first post in this Torah commentary series at https://crystalwrites.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/the-joy-of-the-word-simchat-torah/

Our reading today begins with Yahveh telling Moses to mark the 15th day of the 7th month. You’ll recall that he has just told Israel to mark the 1st through the 10th days of the 7th month, so this is all happening right after the highest holy day of the year, Yom Kippur. The year starts brand new, the sins are wiped clean, and now it’s time to celebrate by remembering exactly what God has delivered Israel from. Oddly, they are still living in tents in the wilderness at this time, but the holiday is being established, so they will never forget.

The reading explains exactly how God intends for them to celebrate this feast, including days of rest and days of sacrifice. The children of Israel are also required to dwell in a sukkah (Hebrew singular for “booth” or tent, which is why the holiday is also called “The Feast of Booths” and “The Feast of Tabernacles”). They are to dwell in this temporary shelter for seven days, and God says it is a permanent regulation, so that generation after generation will know that He is God, and that He delivered them from Egypt.

A sukkah is a temporary dwelling just like our bodies on this earth. Our Messiah chose to live in a temporary body as well, so that He could deliver us from our own type of Egypt–living in sin without Him. My other articles give more detail about Sukkot being the real manger scene, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few bullet points…

  • A sukkah is a shelter built outside a permanent shelter, and many businesses put them up as well.
  • Because Sukkot is one of the feasts where all people were to go to their homes, Bethlehem was filled with homecoming celebrants, so there would have been no room in the inn, but the sukkah would be acceptable for dwelling.
  • The top of the sukkah was open where starlight could have shined through.
  • Yeshua is called the “sukkah” or “tabernacle” of men, and this fulfills Revelation 21:3.
  • It would have been too cold in December for shepherds to have been in the fields at night.
  • Caesar would have been smart enough to hold a census when he knew people were headed home rather than trying to declare one and gather people together from all over.

There is so much more, but I’ll write more later this year when we’re actually having our own celebration of this day. This is by and far my favorite feast day to celebrate because it seems I see more and more of Messiah in the celebration each time we gather. We build our own sukkah in the back yard, and we invite friends and neighbors to join us in the celebration, as we did with our friends Mary and Steve in the above image. If you live in the Kentuckiana area and want to learn more, please let me know to send you an invitation and a map for Sukkot 2014–Lord willing and the rapture don’t come. In the meantime, may all your days be blessed with the holy presence of Our Wonderful Creator.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring Out the Best


Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

During my time growing up on the west coast, our family was pretty picky about the type of sandwich spread we used. Whether it was for a sandwich or a salad, we always used “Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.” Since I am typically alert to details, I always read the part on the label that said, “Known as Hellman’s East of the Rockies.” So, do you know what I did the first time I traveled east of the Rocky Mountains? I went into a grocery store to look for some “Hellman’s Mayonnaise.” so I could read the label to see if it said, “Known as Best Foods West of the Rockies.” And, sure enough, it did.

Such a little thing to get excited about, but it really was important for me to find out. Oh, and if you live east of the Rockies, like I do now, you may have heard the commercial jingle that says, “Bring out the Hellman’s, and bring out the best.” That makes so much more sense, though, when you hear it as, “Bring out the Best Foods, and bring out the best.”

In today’s reading from Leviticus 22:17 through Leviticus 22:33 (the end of the chapter), we read of God wanting us to always bring out the best for Him. This entire teaching covers the offerings brought before God whether for vows or for voluntary burnt offerings, and it gives the details of the acceptable and unacceptable offerings. In order to make the person giving the offering acceptable to God, the offering they gave had to fulfill the requirements that made it acceptable to Him.

Just as the priests who had defects could not give offerings to The Lord, people could not offer animals with defects like blemishes, uneven limbs, blind, injured, mutilated bodies, etc. Even if a foreigner tried to offer something less than perfect, ignorance would not entitle him to give a defective offering.

So, how many of you readers would like it if you gave your child all the ingredients to make a wonderful and tasty dessert, and after the child made it, he or she gave it to a bunch of friends and said you could only have whatever leftovers you could scrape off the pan? As the reading ends, God once again reminds Israel to keep His commandments because He is The Lord, and He is the One who brought them out of the land of Egypt to deliver them and make them holy. He gave them all the cattle and land from which to choose their offering, and He gave them the life of freedom that allows them to now offer gifts to Him, so He not only wants the best from them, He deserves the best from them.

Because of the grace and mercy we have from God through the blood of Yeshua, we might sometimes be tempted to think that God is not so picky anymore. After all, He accepts us just as we are, right? Yes, He does accept us, but only because He, Himself, brought out the best when He robed Himself in flesh to lay His life down for us. As the Lamb of Our Salvation, Christ had no imperfection, no blemish, and no sin. He was not even born of the sinful seed of man. He became the offering that was worthy to allow us to come to God broken, blemished, and damaged by sin. And His blood cleanses us and makes us whole in God’s eyes, so we can now offer ourselves to Him in the way He requires and deserves.

I hope this is enough to inspire and encourage people to keep themselves cleansed and holy before God. Let us not allow any of the desires of our sinful nature to drag us down to a place where we are covered with the muck and mire from which God delivered us. God gave us His best, now let us bring out the best for Him.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be A Part of the Set Apart


Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution

Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I once received a request from someone who wanted to be apart (sic) of a writing project I was putting together. My first reaction was to wonder how much editing I would have to do based on that incorrect request, but after some of the “I know better than this” mistakes I’ve made on Facebook posts, I realized it was an easy mistake that spell-check would never catch. I sent a reply that I would like her to be “a part” of the project and hoped she didn’t really want to be “apart from” it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:23 through Leviticus 20:27 (the end of the chapter), God tells Israel to make sure they do not live by the laws of the land’s former inhabitants. He reminds them that the reason He detested those who lived in the land before He chose to give it to Israel is because they were doing all the things He’s been commanding Israel to avoid. And then He reminds them that He is their God, and He has set them apart from all other people groups.

He wants Israel to be a people that knows the difference in good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and unruly. He does not want them to be ignorant about what sets them apart for Him or what makes them holy to Him. He is a Holy God who has set apart a people to be holy to Him, so they can belong to Him.

As a Christian, I have been offered many opportunities to go along with the crowd and participate in a variety of behaviors that I felt were not something God would have me do. The ones doing the offering were always quick to explain how the activities would not hurt anyone, so they couldn’t really be wrong. I came up with a little chorus along the line of the country song “On The Other Hand” where the man says he won’t cheat on his wife because of the ring on the other hand. My chorus basically said something like…

On one hand, I could go out and party all night long,
And maybe grace could justify all your wild and wooly plans.
But even if our fun would not be all that bad or wrong,
The reason I can’t sin, is in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.

I can’t remember the actual words I wrote back then, and I don’t remember if I even had verses, but I’m sure you get the idea. If we try to fit in with the ways of the world by looking to justify the “minor” sins, how are we treating the price that was paid for our salvation? It doesn’t matter if a sin seems to be a little thing, or if it seems to be innocuous in that it would not really hurt anyone, if our purpose in committing it is to be a part of the world instead of being set apart for Christ, then we need to examine our hearts.  Because we serve a holy God, our hearts should desire holiness.

Think of it this way; just as we don’t want someone marching across our freshly washed floor with muddy boots (or paws if we’re talking about fur-babies), God doesn’t want a parade of unclean things in His presence. With His blood, God has set us apart and welcomed us to be a part of a wonderful eternity. And until then, He wants us to be a part of the intimate relationship He created for a set apart people. It should be our pleasure, and our gift back to Him for choosing us, to live in a way that seeks to be separated from all things God Himself would not want in His holy presence.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy God, Holy People


In Him by Flickr User Sharon aka Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

In Him by Flickr User Sharon aka Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

If our salvation is all by glory and grace, and if we are not to boast in any good works, why is it so important for us to be holy? If works and holiness won’t get us into Heaven, why should we try so hard to please God? And if no matter what we do, how well we believe, or how hard we try, some things will not go our way but will work out only for God’s will in the end, why should we keep acting in faith? The answer to all these questions is the same: because we love and serve a holy God.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:1 through Leviticus 19:14, we begin a new portion for our new week. Parashah 30 is titled in Hebrew K’doshim and it means “Holy People.” The second verse says, “You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” And everything else builds from there. Every law, every ruling, every direction and teaching all point to the same purpose; be holy because Yahveh, your God, is holy. That sentiment is repeated in The New Testament in 1 Peter 1 where verse 15 (AMP) says, “But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”

The next verses have a few repeats of statutes given in “The Ten Commandments,” but there are a few more details as well. For example, in edition to telling Israel not to turn to idols, this says for them not to cast metal gods for themselves. It goes on to tell them to make sure that all their peace offerings bring acceptance to them. Next God tells Israel not to harvest their crops all the way to the corners, and not to pick up dropped grapes or ears of corn. Those remaining bits of harvest are to be left for the poor and the foreigner.

As the reading continues, God reminds the children of Israel not to steal from, lie to, or defraud each other, and not to oppress or rob their neighbors. He also says not to withhold pay on the day the work is done, so apparently that is the same as oppressing your neighbor. I can see how it would be more kind to receive your pay the day you work for it, so you can be the one to bank it for interest instead of your boss. I know lots of wait staff who prefer their tips in cash, so they won’t have to wait to receive them on their paychecks.

On the topic of being kind to each other, God reminds the community members to never speak a curse against a deaf person or put an obstacle in the way of a blind person. I find it a little sad that God had to tell people that though. It would seem that not being unkind to someone who struggles would be common sense, but with so many physical weaknesses being signs of sinfulness, maybe the people felt judgment against those who bore such weaknesses. Maybe it even made them feel justified in their cruelties. Still, to me, kindness seems like something that should not have to be taught.

Above all else, God reminds Israel not to swear by His name falsely since that would be profaning His name, and He reminds them that they should fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord. That’s a wrap-around of what our reading started out with. So, if we remember that Yahveh is our God and our Lord, and we remember that He is holy, we should automatically desire to be a holy people as a way to honor our Holy God.

I believe people who don’t know God fight His laws simply because they are of God. But for those of us who know Him, that should be reason enough to not fight them. It is reason enough for me, as someone who serves Him because I love Him, to adhere to a lifestyle of holiness because He is a Holy God. I don’t want to look for whatever I can get away with because I have His mercy and grace on my life. Instead, I want to please Him because He showed me that mercy and grace in spite of the fact that I did not deserve it.

In truth, the laws of God would serve all humans well. I mean, why should the world get offended by the idea of putting “The Ten Commandments” in public places when most of the rules given there would only serve to make life better for all of us? Is there anyone who likes to be lied about or lied to? Is there any parent who does not desire respect? Is there anyone who wishes for themselves or someone they love to be murdered? I don’t think so. What God calls being holy to Him is mostly just a matter of taking care of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us where we have an influence. Those who don’t serve God may call things like this “random acts of kindness,” but those of us to love Him know they are a way to get in touch with the holy part of Him that dwells in us.

That holy part of God that lives in His believers is what cleanses us to make us fit for the building. It’s also what smooths us to where we can be fitly joined together, and it’s what binds us together in Him. His power gives us the energy that makes us living stones. When we come together according to His plan, His light within this temple of living stones will shine out from us to draw in the lost and confused or our world. More than our “good” behaviors, His holiness set free within us and governing our desires is what makes us a holy people and a holy temple. What better living offering can we give to a Holy God?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

P.S. On the subject of the holy temple, I want to link you to a long but worthwhile article by Chip Brogden from The School of Christ. It’s called “Escape from Churchianity” and it explains how the church (the ekklesia) is to be a holy temple of Christ that is built of living stones. You can read it for yourself at http://theschoolofchrist.org/articles/escape-from-churchianity.html where you will find other great articles and books as well.

April 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slaughter Fodder


One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

By definition, fodder is something that is set aside for a particular use but has no natural value. It’s like the stuff of life that a comedian might turn into a joke for his next routine, and then the value would be added. But when God created life–all life–He created it with value. If He thought of the animals He requested for sacrifice as fodder, He would not have cared if they were spotless, and He would not have demanded such care be taken even when their end was to die. But if these same animals were killed senselessly, or killed to be offered to a false god, the killer would be seeing them as mere fodder and without value.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:1 through Leviticus 17:7, we find that the community of Israel doesn’t see the animals with that value. Instead, they have been slaughtering some of their sacrifices away from the tabernacle, and God is saying it must come to an end. When I first started reading it, I thought it was speaking of slaughtering for the purpose of a meal, and I was praying in my heart; asking God about it. Then I kept reading (which didn’t take too long at only seven verses, but the mind works pretty fast), and I found God’s reasons.

As it turns out, there were people in the camp who were slaughtering animals to make offerings to a false god. This Scripture calls these false gods “goat-demons” and says the people were prostituting themselves before them. After everything they have seen Yahveh Almighty do in their midst, I’m amazed they would even consider giving a sacrifice to a false god, but I’m also thinking they knew it was wrong since some were doing their sacrifices outside the camp. They’ve already received the commandments, and they know Yahveh is a jealous God, but I wonder how they could not know He is also an all-seeing God.

To prevent the people from being able to sacrifice to anything or anyone other than Their Holy Creator, God institutes a permanent regulation that all slaughters must take place at the door of The Tent of Meeting. My guess is that some people caught in the act of sacrificing to a false god might have tried to hide it by saying they were just preparing their offering for Adonai. But whether they lied about who it was for, or lied about why they had blood on their hands, performing the offering only at the door of the tabernacle and with the tabernacle priests would put a stop to the bad practices. It would also create a system of accountability.

The idea of accountability is helpful in everything from dieting and exercise to business and government. If we are only accountable to ourselves, we can eventually lose perspective. In the case of the tabernacle, the priests were accountable to the “high priest” who was accountable to God. The one(s) to whom you are accountable must be someone who truly cares to help you do the right thing. If a criminal is accountable only to other criminals, they will excuse his behavior rather than holding him to a higher standard. That’s why the people could not be accountable only to themselves.

As we walk and live for Christ now, we are living sacrifices and not just fodder. God looks on us and all we do with value. He saw us with enough value that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now, after choosing to live for Him, we have our High Priest Yeshua to oversee us and offer accountability. We also have the accountability of God’s Holy Spirit living in us to guide us, so we don’t just run off trying to do things our own way.

I like the way The Message Bible talks about the living sacrifice from Romans 12:1-2

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

And to close, let me give one more wonderful verse portion from Colossians 3:15-17 also from The Message Bible…

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prepare to Let God Fight for You


Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution

Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In Proverbs 21:31 (AMP), we are given the following wisdom…

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance and victory are of the Lord.

So we do all we can to prepare to take a stand and to fight if necessary, but in reality, the battle against sin truly belongs to The Lord. Paul said he kept doing the things he didn’t want to do, and he kept failing when he tried to do the right things, because sin reigned in his mortal body. That doesn’t mean we quit fighting, but it does mean that it takes something (or Someone) greater than our personal self-control to wage and win this war.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:25 through Leviticus 16:34, we are still reading God’s instructions for the priest making atonement for the sins of Israel. We’re told that the man who takes the scapegoat outside the camp must wash his clothes and bathe before he can return to the camp. And then we’re told that the person who takes the hides and dung from the offerings and burns them outside the camp must also bathe and wash his clothes before he can return to the camp.

I see the verses above as a sort of physical representation of the symbolic steps we take as we change from who we are without Christ to who we will become with Him. These steps include confession (we saw that over the head of the goat yesterday), repentance, sending our sinful behaviors away from us, burning up any remnants of sin, and then washing our bodies and clothes (baptism) to show that we are fresh and new without even the smells of “old goat” or “smoke” of sin remaining on us.

And this walks us perfectly into the next part of today’s portion where we learn about The Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. We learn that the community is to take a complete Sabbath on this day, and that atonement will be made to purify them. While this high holy day is prepared for with fasting, self-assessment of sins and weaknesses, confession and repentance, the day of Yom Kippur is a day of complete and total rest, and a day of self-denial. It is the actual day when the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies, and the congregation would wait in silence to see if he would come back out to them alive to declare their salvation.

In our lives today, we should not enter lightly into the atonement we have under the blood of Yeshua. Yes, He does all the work. Yes, His blood completely cleanses us. But to say we should not prepare for that holy moment would deny us of the knowledge of the awesome work Christ (our High Priest) does on our behalf. How can we value the depth of what He has delivered us from if we go in with our eyes closed and never look at the pit? How can we even know which side we’re on until we understand where the enemy occupies in his stand against our souls? Yes, Yahveh Almighty is The One who will win the victory for us; who has already won the victory through the blood of Christ, but let us prepare for the battle to stand for Him that we can cheer with everything in us when we hear His voice as He declares our salvation.

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grease is Not the Word


Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.

In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.

Now, if anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word Meshiach and Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.

After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.

When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Screening God’s Calls


Answering Machine by Flickr User Jen R, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Answering Machine by Flickr User Jen R, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Back when people used answering machines more often than voicemail, it was easier to screen calls rather than just screening callers. If you were in the middle of something, you could listen to the message as it was being left and decide if it was something that could be handled later or needed an immediate response. But, while that works for people, it’s not a good idea to do the same thing with Yahveh.

When God reaches down into “miry clay” and calls us from our humanity to a higher place in Him, we really don’t want to miss out on the wonderful plans He has for us. He calls us because He loves us and desires for us to be closer to Him–to walk with Him both in this life and in eternity. Like a parent who knows what’s best for his child, our Heavenly Father calls to us because He has the best plan for us. Besides, while you can hold off on answering the phone since the caller cannot see you, we know from Scripture that God knocks on the door. 🙂

In today’s reading from Exodus 26:31 through Exodus 26:37 (the end of the chapter), we have more details on tabernacle construction. Most of them are finer details on things like the curtains and furnishings, but in this we learn where they are putting the Ark of the Covenant and placement of other furnishings. We also learn about the screen that will be placed between the “Holy Place” and the “Especially Holy Place” (often called The Holy of Holies). In this case, priests did have to screen God’s call to learn if they were called as high priests that could go into the holiest part of the tabernacle or not.

The above-mentioned screen is what is often referred to as the veil, and it is what was torn from top to bottom at the moment Yahshua gave up the ghost when He breathed His last breath on Calvary. I believe He, Himself, tore it apart as a follow up to His words, “It is finished,” meaning that the final sacrifice was done, so people could now come boldly before the ark. And, remember, the ark was topped by the mercy seat. Christ presents His own blood at the Heavenly altar that we may continually come boldly for a mercy that is new every morning. And I’m so glad that God doesn’t screen my calls.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hidden Beauty


Hidden Beauty--Poster & Quote by Crystal A Murray--All Rights Reserved

Hidden Beauty–Poster & Quote by Crystal A Murray–All Rights Reserved

I enjoy going on cave tours, and one of the most beautiful ones I have toured was called “Caverns of Sonora” in Sonora, Texas. The image above was just one of those happy accidents as it was one of the few that came out nice from my point and shoot camera. As I looked at it, I thought about how long it had stayed in the dark before men discovered it and added light. The beauty was the same, but only God was able to see it. And then I thought of the Scripture about God looking on our hearts and wondered how much undiscovered beauty there might be in people.

In today’s reading from Exodus 25:17 through Exodus 25:40 (the end of the chapter), we see the instructions for three pieces of furniture for the yet-to-be-constructed tabernacle. There are details about size and dimension, materials, and usage for the Ark of the Covenant, Table of Shewbread, and Golden Menorah. The beauty being built into each of these items is exquisite, but most of the time, only those who can go to the holy parts of the tabernacle will be able to see them. That means, the beauty is hidden from all but the priests and God.

There are many theories and articles about the meanings of the tabernacle furnishings, but I’ll tell you just a little about my thoughts on the three mentioned today. The ark, being the dwelling place of The Most High, would represent the human heart. It is the place where God’s testimony (the Torah/Law) will be stored along with a pot of manna (to represent trust in God’s provision), and Aaron’s rod that budded (to represent God’s power and authority.) We know it is good to hide the law of God in our hearts, and isn’t that where we also find faith and where we tap into power? The encouragement to “give it your whole heart” shows just how much is rooted there.

The table has bread which feeds God’s priests, but I believe it is also a reminder that we are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. I believe it also represents the Bread of Life which is Yahshua our Messiah.

The Menorah, which is another of those words that includes the Hebrew OR for light, will bring light into the holy place. Again, Yahshua is The Light, and in the menorah, oil (which often represents the Holy Spirit) is used to give life to the light. 

Like I said, there is so much more that can be found in these furnishings, including the fact that the Mercy Seat sits above the Ark of the Covenant because God’s mercy sits above His law. We are able to see these things now because He has made us a Kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood, and we are able to come boldly before the seat of mercy because God tore the veil that once separated us from it. I could go on, but I’ll let you read it for yourself and search to find your own beauty in these things and in God’s Holy Word.

P.S. I have put this image and quote on a few items in my Zazzle store. I’d like to post a few more one day soon. If you are interested in seeing the different colors and styles, just click http://www.zazzle.com/crystalwriter/gifts?cg=196922414116128920 to visit. Thanks.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Total Torah Recall


Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
I love the light and colors that are displayed when I’m able to capture an image from inside my oil-cell kaleidoscope. This one has not been shared to Flickr yet.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’m writing from the road tonight because I’m pretty sure we won’t make it back home before midnight. I will edit later for links and such though. Edit: I was right. It’s almost 3am, and I’m just trying to do a quick edit before I go to sleep. I changed images since the one I uploaded with my phone somehow took the whole page width, but I’m sticking with something filled with light since the Torah (T-OR-AH) is filled with light. (OR is Hebrew for light.)

When I planned this series of blog posts, I wasn’t thinking of sharing the Torah content as much as just sharing how something from the reading affected me. Then, the natural teacher side of me kicked in, and I started trying to summarize the text to help readers gain understanding of God’s holy and wonderful word. I hope you are all blessed by my efforts however long or short.

Today’s reading covers Exodus 23:26 through Exodus 24:18 (the end of the chapter and the end of the week’s portion). It’s a wrap up of the rulings God has been giving Moses, and in this one, God calls the total rulings His Torah. Refer to my first post on this subject for meaning behind the word Torah, but in brief, it is God’s word, and it contains God’s light and truth.

Having read much earlier today, I don’t remember the particulars so much, but the part that stuck out for me was on reading what Moses and the seventy elders of Israel got to see. While most of the camp of Israel was only able to see God as fire on top of the mountain, Moses, Aaron, a couple other leaders, and the seventy elders were invited higher up and were able to see an image of God Himself. As they looked, they saw His feet standing on a piece of transparent crystal that looked like the sky.

I cried as I read the description and imagined being able to gaze upon such a wondrous site. I can’t put into words how very much I am in love with My Creator. And I can only imagine how it will feel to look in His loving face one day and to know I have an eternity to thank Him for all He has done for me.

There’s an old song by The Oakridge Boys called When I Sing for Him. It talks about how good it feels to sing praises to God, and then the music crescendos, and the singer belts out, “When I sing for Him in person, HalleluYah; when I move to my new home, HalleluYah; oh the angels will be singing, HalleluYah Amen; when I sing….for….Him!” As a singer, I can imagine standing on that stage in front of God, looking at Him standing on the sky-blue piece of crystal, and hearing the words, “Well done, my true and faithful servant.” It’s too precious to me to even describe.

Have a blessed Sabbath, and when you can find a quiet place and time, take a few minutes to imagine yourself singing in person to your Creator and Savior who loves you. I promise, it will bring you a special touch if joy and peace. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the song I mention above. Only in watching it can you truly see how powerful it is.

January 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of Balance


Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

In the Proverbs of Solomon, Chapter 11, verse 1, we read (from the Amplified version)…A false balance and unrighteous dealings are extremely offensive and shamefully sinful to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. I think people (made in God’s image) feel something similar. We need to see things in balance to feel like life is working as it should. We desire justice, and most people want to see fairness and equity in all parts of life. It is this need for balance that makes the blood of Yahshua necessary.

Without the blood of Christ, the balance of sin must be paid for with the wages we see in today’s reading from Exodus 21:20 through Exodus 22:3 (4 in other versions) of a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, etc. The rules given in the Scriptures from yesterday and today all lead to that same need for balance. Sadly, too many people think that evil does not need to be recompensed. They think that saying I’m sorry is a recompense for doing wrong. They think having a good excuse for evil doings is reason the evil should not require recompense at all. And, sadly, too many Christians think the blood of Our Savior removes more than just the wages of death, and that repentance should mean they earn a “Get out of jail free” card from a trip to the altar.

Of course, some wages do escape payment by the unmerited favor of God known as grace. I cannot tell you how many issues I should have paid for while I was living in a constantly sinful state. I did things that the laws of the land would have punished with jail time, and I’m certain I’m not alone in that based on many testimonies I’ve heard. But I would never dare to demand that God follow after me with a spiritual “pooper scooper,” cleaning up my messes just because I committed my life to Him. I believe that committing my life to Him makes me that much more responsible for learning what He considers to be a balanced walk of faith and obedience.

When God was giving these rulings to Israel, He was speaking to those who were supposed to be His people; those who desired to live in a way that uplifted and glorified their maker. That said, they had to be told how to keep those things in order. For example, the reading talks of the owner’s responsibilities if one of his animals gores a human being–especially if that animal was known for doing that, and the owner did not properly restrain it. Most of the reading covers common sense ways to keep balance even for those who do not claim to serve Yahveh, such as paying for an animal that falls into a cistern if you were the one to leave the top off of it.

If you decide to read the passage for yourself, refer it to the Scripture I used at first, and remember that God’s ultimate goal is to keep things in balance. Just like we need a balance of faith and works to keep from going in circles as if we were rowing with one oar. The world is balanced with seasons, and our lives are balanced by work and wages, sin and grace, and always by the governing of God who promises to make all things balanced and beautiful in time. (See Ecclesiastes 3:11).

January 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Outage


And I’ll bet you guys think this is the title for my latest post, huh? Well, actually this is just a placeholder while I wait for the power to come back on. I don’t want to have to go out driving in the storms to get a good enough signal to write my full post. So, hopefully I’ll have power soon. Blessings until then. ~Crystal

Okay, so power is back on, but I’m leaving the title the same because the reading is short, and there’s not much in it–especially about the power of God. Of course, when I look for it, I can find the power of God in most everything since I know I don’t even breathe in or out without Him. In that sense, there’s no power outage in this story or in any story. I mean, I almost burst into tears in my first computer class back in 2001. It was just a brief overview of an A+ course, but when the guy said that everything we see on the screen is just a series of ones and zeroes representing power turned on or off, I could suddenly see God working on His creation in binary arithmetic and saying, “Power on–Let there be light.” It may seem silly to some, but it amazes me to see God in everything.

So, today’s short reading is from Genesis 25:1 through Genesis 25:11, and it briefly tells the story of Abraham when he married Keturah. I would guess that this marriage was after Sarah died, but I find some questioning in my mind on this subject. See, Keturah bore Abraham six sons. But remember how Abraham laughed about having pleasure when he was old? So, did all his youthful strength come back to him after he created Isaac? Beyond that, it talks about the children of his concubines. Maybe there’s more history elsewhere, but I’m just wondering if Abraham had all these children after Isaac, or if they were just unmentioned before. The telling does say that Abraham gave all his riches to Isaac and sent the other children to the east with grants.

By the last verse, we read that after Abraham passed away (and was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the same tomb as Sarah), God greatly blessed Isaac. I’ve heard many messages about God’s blessings being given through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel whose story we have yet to read. Now, I’m wondering exactly what blessings/grants were given to all these other sons. I’m thinking of mighty armies and prosperous lands throughout the earth, and I’m remembering that God told Abraham that the whole earth would be blessed through him.

It’s funny how I can read this stuff each year and have thoughts on it as I read, but then when I decide to write the commentary, I see so much I never noticed before. Even when what I see creates a bunch of questions to which I may or may not get answers, I love that my heart is always stirred by the written Word of God. And now, I guess it’s like I said above, even if I’m not seeing specific readings about the power of God, there really never is a power outage.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Well, Since God Said So


Yellow Rose in Green Frame by Crystal A Murray (with the help of Fractalius)

FAITH–Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Photo of yellow rose in green frame by Crystal A Murray
(Edits with Irfanview and Fractalius)

Yesterday, we read about God giving Abraham’s servant a sign that he was moving in the right direction, and through it, the servant found Rebekah as a future wife for Isaac. Today, we read in Genesis 24:27 through Genesis 24:52, and the story is almost exactly the same except that it is being retold by the servant to Rebekah’s relatives.

In verses 47 & 48, the servant begins to share his personal reaction to being shown a positive sign about Rebekah. He tells the family how he put the gifts of jewelry on her, and then he describes bowing before Adonai and worshiping Him for bringing him to the right place. In verse 49, he gives his audience the chance to make a decision about whether or not they will believe and adhere to the direction that has been shown to the servant and confirmed by the sign, and I love their response.

In verses 51 & 52, the two men respond by saying (my paraphrase), “Well, since this is obviously from God, we can’t say anything good or bad. Since Rebekah is here before you, take her and go, and let her become your master’s son’s wife…since God said so.” And at that point, the servant again bowed on his face to worship Yahveh Almighty.

If only we could all respond as calmly and without argument, right? I know I have thought for sure that God said things, but then I waited for a person to confirm what I knew in my heart. When I didn’t get the human support I felt I needed, I backed down only to find later that I should have listened to that still, small voice in my spirit. If only I would always understand that His ways and thoughts are above my ways and thoughts and, with or without human support or understanding, move forward in obedience just because God said so. There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end leads to destruction. And then… there is God’s way.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When God Stops to Visit


Today’s reading begins Parashah (Portion) Four, which includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. Part 1 of this portion is Genesis 18:1 through Genesis 18:14, and it tells the story of when God stopped by Abraham’s house. It says that when Abraham looked out his door, he saw three men standing under the Oaks of Mamre, and he knew immediately who was on his property. The picture below from Wikemedia Commons, can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg.

Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg (400×290)

So, here’s Abraham just going about his daily routines, having many of the same needs we all experience on a daily basis, and suddenly he looks outside and sees God. If that happened to you, what would you do? How many people do you suppose would say something like, “Oh, hey God. I’ve been meaning to talk to You. I’ve got this list of things I’ve been needing from You, and, well, since You’re here anyway.” I grieve that many would see it as the magic lamp is here. Let’s rub it.

But not Abraham. He ran–not walked–from his tent door and fell at his feet in humble worship. He asked these visitors to be his guests; to wash their feet, have some food and drink, and to rest before they traveled on. He was beside himself trying to give to them and do FOR them rather than trying to get something FROM them.

This has always meant something special to me. I have asked myself more than once if, when I am in the Presence of the Almighty, am I more concerned about what I can get or what I can giveSo many altar services are all about coming forward to receive something from God. We have services and gatherings centered around gifts and getting. Even Christmas, a time when people claim to be celebrating the birth of our Messiah, is more about getting gifts from each other than giving gifts to the birthday child. And whether it’s in the natural or the spiritual, this taking more than giving breaks my heart. And I wonder, after all God has given us in creation and salvation, does it break His heart too?

See, Abraham knew that the Creator of the Universe didn’t have to bless him as He already had. He knew God didn’t even have to stop to visit. Thankfulness exceeded his desire to request things from Him. His biggest request was that he would find favor in God’s eyes, so that He would stay and visit for a while. In return, God reminded Abraham once more that his wife Sarah would be having a baby soon. This time, it was Sarah who laughed, and I love today’s final verse in response to Sarah’s laughter: Is anything too hard for the Lord? The Amplified Bible adds “or too wonderful.”

I want to go before the throne in thanksgiving and humble adoration proclaiming how great is my God and praising Him that He reigns supreme in my life. I want to praise Him because I know that NOTHING is too hard or too wonderful for Him. And I pray this blesses Him so much that he will want to stop by and visit often.

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proverbs 2 – Treasure Hunt for Wisdom


Can you recall meeting people who would not let you get to know them? Maybe you tried to show interest in them and show that you cared, so you could create a safe place for them to be themselves. But no matter what you did, it seemed they were all locked up inside themselves. Maybe it was fear, maybe pride, or maybe a little of both, but whatever it was, it was frustrating.

For a person like me who will share just about everything about herself, it’s even harder to deal with someone who is closed up. But thankfully, God is not that way! It thrills me that He says in so many places in His word that He wants me to get to know Him. He says things like, “They that seek me will find me.” Of course, that verse is incomplete. It actually says, in paraphrase from Jeremiah 29:13, “Those that seek me with all their hearts will find me.”

Here’s what today’s reading from Proverbs 2 (talking about seeking God’s wisdom) has to say…

4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. (KJV)

God wants us to know more about Him. He wants to share the treasures of His wisdom. But He doesn’t want to give those treasures away to just anyone. He wants to give them to those who desire them and will value them. They are as valuable as silver and gold, so God doesn’t want to just dump them out on those who are satisfied with fool’s gold.

Oh, but if we are seekers, He wants to share with us in abundance. In James 1:5, we’re even told that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God and He will give it to us liberally. And in James 4:8, we’re reminded that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. His presence is an awesome treasure, and this verse amplifies Deuteronomy 4:7 that says, “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? (KJV)”

Doesn’t that just make you want to run to Him and learn more about Him? I know it does me. I’m thankful He’s not a god who is, like the song says, “watching us from a distance.” He is near. His wisdom is near. He simply wants us to seek Him. And when we do, the rest of this chapter talks about how we will fall in love with His wisdom and knowledge and how it will protect us from being led down paths that could be impossible to return from. I cannot fully put into words how much I value His presence and His wisdom, but I welcome you to join me as a fellow treasure hunter, and to rejoice with me for all the wonderful gifts we will find as we seek Him.

 

 

January 3, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction, Proverbs & Wisdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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